UWI Toronto scholarship helped Jamaican student's dream come true
April 13, 2017
Jezeel Martin knows he has a lot to be thankful for.
Twelve years ago while on his way to St. George’s College in Jamaica, gunfire erupted.
“There were armed gunmen in front of me and when I looked back, I saw more men with guns,” he recounted. “With literally nowhere to hide, I dropped to the ground between the sidewalk curb and a parked car as more gunshots rang out. There I was smack in the middle of the war with my hands digging into the ground, tears flowing from my eyes and praying to God not to get hit in the crossfire.”
That was a defining moment in Martin’s life.
“From then, education became my refuge,” he said. “It’s a place where I can reinvent myself and rid myself of the oppressive arm of poverty.”
The recipient of a University of the West Indies (UWI) Toronto benefit gala scholarship two years ago, Martin attended the eighth annual fundraiser in the city recently to thank the benefactors for their generous financial contributions.
Nearly 300 UWI students have benefitted from Canadians generosity since 2010.
Martin received his scholarship in the nick of time as he was about to be booted out of university for an outstanding tuition balance.
“I was working at the Canadian High Commission during the day and packing grocery bags at General Food Supermarket at night to raise money to attend university and support my mother who was recovering from a debilitating stroke when I received an email from UWI in my final semester saying I would be de-registered if I couldn’t come up with the remaining funds I owed,” said Martin. “I was devastated as that would have meant missing out on my final exams with just two months left on the three-year journey and having to return a year later to finish off.”
Martin’s heartbreak and disappointment soon turned to joy when he was awarded a UWI Toronto scholarship.
“That scholarship engendered a renewal in the higher purpose for my life,” he pointed out. “Since then, I am more cognizant that as I take a hold of my successes, it will not only be mine but the many who stand along the sidelines looking for something to believe in.”
Receiving a scholarship with the Chang’s name attached to it was also significant.
When UWI needed help from the Canadian Diaspora community to raise funds to provide scholarships for Caribbean students, the late Raymond Chang and his wife, Donnette Chin-Loy, agreed to be the patrons of the annual fundraising gala.
While in Canada seven years ago doing a four-month advanced level French course at Laval University in Quebec, Martin met Chang.
“I went to his home and that meeting was enriching and enlightening,” he said. “We are both St. George’s graduates, so I also met him on a few occasions when he was in Jamaica. He motivated me and other St. George’s alumni. I learnt from him that a dream can become reality.”
Not only was Martin able to complete his law degree studies on time, but he did so in grand style registering ‘As’ in every subject.
“Caribbean students assisted by the UWI Toronto scholarship represent young people experiencing harsh realities on the streets that hunger and thirst for access to the necessities of life,” he said. “I will forever remember the help that a poor little boy from one of the most dangerous communities in Jamaica received from Canadians.”
Coming to Toronto for the gala also provided Martin, who has visited this country on a few occasions, with an opportunity to re-unite with family and friends and interact with some of the award winners.
Straight off the plane, he headed to Mississauga to watch his nephew play in a Peewee hockey tournament.
“Later on, it was an amazing experience meeting some of the honourees and having some really great conversations with them,” he added. “That really lifted my spirit.”
Enrolled at Norman Manley Law School, Martin – who is fluent in French and conversational in Spanish and German -- will sit his final set of bar exams next month.
In August, he will take up a full-time position at Myers, Fletcher and Gordon where he interned.
Martin will be called to the bar in December to practice law in Jamaica.
With expenses cleared, a record total of $520,000 raised at this year’s sold-out gala will go to needy UWI students.